Tewksbury Selectmen Election

The elections for selectmen is on April 10th, and all Tewksbury residents are encouraged to go vote!

Tewksbury Selectmen Election

Elizabeth Miller

Tewksbury’s local elections are just around the corner. On April 10 the constituents will vote, and the candidates will wait. There are four candidates for Selectmen this year, with two seats in the running. Incumbent Mark Kratman is up for re-election, and Mr. Brian Dick is not seeking another term. There will be a forum for the candidates on Thursday, March 18. The last day to register to vote for the town elections is Friday, March 19, at the Town Clerk’s Office. Tewksbury residents who are or will be 18 on April 10 are eligible to register to vote in the town elections. The town clerk’s office is open from 7:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday, and will be open until 8 p.m. on the 19 for voter registration. Candidates Mark Kratman and James Mackey did not respond to any of multiple correspondences for this article, and thus will not be featured. Some answers have been shortened, or excerpted due to the volume of responses. 

Meet the Candidates

George Ferdinand has worked in the Auto Industry and as part of the Labor Movement since 1984. He is a Wilmington High School Graduate of the class of 1980 and attended both Northeastern University and Wayne State University for a total of 32 Credits. He has been involved in the community as a member of the Knights of Columbus and the American Legion. He is also a member of the Visioning Committee, and an Executive Board Member of the non-profit Tewksbury Cares from 2016-2019. He believes, “It’s quality not quantity of involvement that I strive for with so many responsibilities in each of our personal lives.” Just last month he was appointed to the newly formed General By-Laws Committee. Mr. Ferdinand was elected to the Board of Health (BOH) from 2016 to 2019, and calls it “one of the highlights of [his] life”.

Todd Johnson is an insurance executive, providing insurance and risk management advice to employers throughout New England. He is also a part time law professor, and holds a law degree as well as multiple risk management certifications in the insurance area. Mr. Johnson has served for nearly 17 years through service on the Finance Committee, Board of Selectmen, and, currently, as Town Moderator. He believes strongly in public service, and believes he has learned a lot about our town and values from interactions with community members. Additionally, he has been a leader and volunteer at the Tewksbury Community Pantry for about 25 years. The pantry provides food assistance to many who are less fortunate, and in that role he has been reminded often that decisions made in local government impact fellow residents in many ways. 

 

Question 1: Why are you running for Selectmen? What unique perspective can you bring to the board?

Ferdinand: To make a difference and oversee the projects that are and will be occuring in the next 3-6 years. The passion I have for public service with both life experiences that many residents have had and work experience that centered around negotiations, problem solving and consensus building. These will help me be successful in accomplishing the will of the people from each Annual Town Meeting. 

Unlike others who have lived for many years in Tewksbury or their whole lives I bring many experiences for the places in Massachusetts and Michigan that I have lived. Being the outgoing person that I am. I currently work for a company that has over 60% African Americans working in North American facilities. I lived in Boston for some years and Southwest Detroit which has the largest population of Mexican Americans. The city right beside it (Dearborn) has the most concentrated Arab American populace in the U.S. Many people migrated from the South in the 20s to the 50s to be part of the cradle of democracy and work for one of the big three in Southeast Michigan. My teen years were spent in Wilmington. So as you can see, I am a part of the moasic [sic] that is America. I have learned City, County, Town and Township forms of Local government by study and experiance [sic] from both elected and appointed positions I have held during my life. Lastly, the 37 years as a United Auto Worker with the many appointed and elected positions I have had has toughtened [sic] my skin when it comes to governing politics in particular. 

Johnson: I am running because I believe I have a track record of proven professional leadership and believe the town will be facing some challenges in the next couple of years. I served during a very challenging time a number of years ago and I helped guide our town through that difficult stretch, so experienced leadership matters. This is not a “learn on the job” position – residents deserve more than that. I’m ready on day one to do the job because I served for 12 years before.

 

Question 2: What are issues you see in our community and how do you propose solving them? 

Ferdinand: In the last 6 years I have both served as an Appointed and Elected Tewksbury leader. There is only one way that solving issues can occur. It’s thru [sic] discussing ideas with mutual respect and consensus building. One example is: after the Master Plan was updated in 2014. I knew that the next thing that should be undertaken was a zoning by-laws update. So I sent a formal request in July 2015 to the Town Manager, Board of Selectmen and The Planning Board. Since then much work has been put in by the Zoning By-Laws update committee and other leaders in our town government. The final product will be taken up at this Annual Town Meeting in April. Knowledge of how local government works with sharing ideas, mutual respect and consensus building is the only way to recognize and solve issues.

Johnson: I anticipate some financial headwinds on the horizon. We need to ensure that services are delivered adequately throughout the many town departments we rely on. At the same time, we need to be mindful that taxpayer funds need to be used wisely. We need to foster prudent fiscal management and look for areas to provide relief to homeowners and businesses in town wherever possible. It starts with truly understanding our financial picture and resources. I’m ready on day one to step right in. 

 

Question 3: What actions would you take to improve diversity and discrimination in our town?

Ferdinand: I take diversity and discrimination very seriously. Currently the Board of Selectmen is in the process of putting together an advisory committee with these as a focus. If elected, my main concern with the formation is the legal liability that the town may open itself up to with such a committee. I would personally meet with town council to address my concerns. Upon satisfaction of the meeting, my preference to 3 ex- officio members would be Asst. Manager Sadwick, one from the Police Department and one from the School Department. With hope and encouragement I and all the leadership can and should, attract and welcome all Americans no matter their race, religion, creed, nationality, disability, or whom they love and businesses to move here to enrich our town.

Recently, the Selectboard voted to create a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee in town, which passed 4-1, with Incumbent Mark Kratman being the only nay vote. 

Johnson: We should always be mindful to provide equal access and opportunity. I have not personally witnessed extreme examples of discrimination in Tewksbury and feel that overall, residents are a generous, caring people. That said, I’m sure there are some examples and we can always learn from one another to make our town better for all. I support the establishment of a study committee as recently adopted by the Board of Selectmen. Communication, awareness, and input from all stakeholders is critical to addressing this societal issue. 

 

Question 4: Considering that the state issues licenses to teenagers to operate motor vehicles, and considering that the state sends recruiters to high schools asking them to fight for their country, would you be in support of lowering the voting age in local elections to 17?

Ferdinand: Let me start by saying that every high school student should be required to take and pass a civics class to graduate. I have many issues with regards to (NHTSA) the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Big Insurance and the Registry of Motor Vehicles. But suffice it to say that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has too many restrictions and regulations on tobacco and alcohol for our citizens between the ages of 18-21 and business owners with these products and should be overturned by the State legislature based on personal liberty and not imposed by the above named culprits. ps to those who say it’s a health issue then the onus should be on parents and schools to teach the negatives effects of these products and personal responsibility for using them.

Thank you. This doesn’t quite get to the heart of the question, Do you support lowering the voting age in local elections to 17?

Ferdinand: No but I hope you post the rest because the required taking of the class will hopefully get other young people to get involved and soon to be 18-21 and be encouraged to serve in the military but not be able to smoke or drink is offensive to me and folks on this side of the issues.

Johnson: While this is a state and/or federal policy issue not addressed at the local level, I generally support expanding participation in our democratic process as much as possible, so I would be supportive of a voting age of 17. That said, access is the first step. It is absolutely critical that we also educate voters on issues so they can make well founded decisions; and, voters of every age need to assume responsibility to learn about the issues and actively participate in the process. 

 

Question 5: If you have been elected before, in this seat or another, what do you believe was your greatest achievement?

Ferdinand: I was elected to the Board of Health from 2016 to 2019. It is one of the highlights of my life. I have absolutely not one regret of any vote that I took during the term. At the end of the day to me that is an awesome achievement. I was elected on addressing 3 issues. Transparency, Response to citizen concerns and Regulatory reform. Upon my election I sat down with Director Susan Sawyer [and] we had a great conversation. I lobbied for the three and immediately the next meeting was recorded on YouTube and upon citizen requests were made available. Within a year they were televised on one of our local cable channels. Secondly a process was created to log the concerned calls from our citizens. After that I never had one constituent say that they were not responded to. Whereas there were about 25 that were mentioned to me as a candidate. On regulatory reform we were able to update 5 of the 14 regulations during the 3 which equals 37 percent of the department’s regulations. Quantifiably speaking it was a great success. The results speak for themself [sic].

Johnson: In my previous tenure on the Board of Selectmen, I believe my collaborative leadership style during very challenging times and my advocacy for improved fiscal management and policies have helped make Tewksbury a better place for all of us to live.  In my opinion, some of those decisions, as supported by Town Meeting and voters along the way, will have a positive long term effect on the quality of our lives for years to come. I am proud of those accomplishments.

 

Question 6: Since it is Women’s History month, and since I am a part of our school’s chapter of She’s the First, a club that raises awareness about women’s issues, celebrates their accomplishments, and raises money for girls’ education, who is a woman that inspires you and why?

Ferdinand: Hands down it’s 23 year old Malala Yousafzai a Pakistani activist who, while a young girl, spoke out publicly against the prohibition on the education of girls that was imposed by the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP; sometimes called Pakistani Taliban). She gained global attention when she survived an assassination attempt at age 15. In 2014 Yousafzai (the youngest recipient) and Kailash Satyarthi were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition of their efforts on behalf of children’s rights.  Since then she has lived in England and has promoted not just in Pakistan but in every country that girls should have the right to education. To further this endeavor she started the Malala. Last year she graduated from Oxford University. She continues to inspire me and countless millions especially young girls to seek education no matter where they live. The sky is truly the limit for what she chooses to do in her life. May such a seed catch ahold of even one and hopefully many more girls, in Tewksbury to aspire to such lofty goals that by Malala’s example can be attained.

Johnson: The woman who inspires me the most is my wife, Andree. I have known her for nearly 40 years. She has been an outstanding mother to our two children, a caregiver for her own parents who lived with us, and a great partner and sounding board for me. She has balanced all of those responsibilities with a strong commitment to being a terrific and dedicated teacher in our school system. Andree has pursued her own post graduate degrees, supported me years ago while I went to night law school, and has dealt with various family and health concerns over the years. Despite all of those challenges, she always made sure our family was well cared for. While all families have their own challenges, a wife and mother’s dedication to her family is something impressive; and I appreciate and admire all Andree does for ours. 

 

Question 7: Do you have a campaign website where one can find more information about your campaign and stances on issues?

Ferdinand: I have in the past but currently I do not. Do a google search on my name in Tewksbury and many articles come up that are very detailed. Also, on YouTube type in Tewksbury Forum 2019. My knowledge of the subject with details was unmatched. My email address is [email protected] for any and all questions. In closing, stay tuned to my “Contract with Tewksbury,” that will be released on Wednesday March 31st. The people DESERVE to know where the candidates stand on the issues and their ideas (if they have any) to solve them and benefit Tewksbury. You may ask why am I releasing them so late. In the past when I released them early, others used them to get elected. Will we choose the same to be selectmen or make the change with an experienced candidate that is needed. Remember WE get what WE vote for. God Bless you and our beloved Tewksbury.

Johnson: I do not have a website, but I am available to answer any questions residents have for me at any time and I thank them for their consideration.